On Nights like This

It’s the little things that change everything.

Good night Los Angeles,

J.T.

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Feliz Cumpleaños, Tommy’s!

It was a dazzlingly beautiful day at the Rampart and Beverly intersection today, as the neighborhood celebrated the seventieth birthday of Tommy’s World Famous Burgers. Not wont to miss an opportunity to honor the crowd, the folks at Tommy’s brought out the Mariachi band, which of course brought out los danzantes!

L.A. looked magnificent, and I was so freakin’ proud.

When we honor the places we come from, the places we come from honor us right back. If this isn’t one of the greatest secrets about how to make the most of our time with the world, I don’t know what is!

J.T.

Keeping my Schedule

On getting back from Miami I made a commitment to myself to write every day, and as Wednesday night whittles down, I’m keeping that commitment (at least as far as the West Coast is concerned)!

It was a long day through The City this Wednesday, which for me was dominated by the screens of my laptop and phone as I tried to catch up on some old emails, forgotten invoices, texts, and all that other ‘jazz’. Really, it wasn’t all that fun, but there was still some magic! At lunch-time, I realized what I’d been missing since I got back to Los Angeles: my burritos, of course!

When it hit me, I slogged through the heat and walked over to the Burrito King in Echo Park, where I ordered myself a bean and cheese burrito. Bean and cheese is my favorite because it’s just so soft and mushy for yours truly; in the second that the warm foil with the tortilla wrapped inside came into my hands, I tore open the foil and gobbled the sucker down like I was King Kong!

Just a few feet away, it was rush-hour at Sunset and Alvarado, where the area was dominated by the sound of engines, exhaust, and the rest of the usual suspects of L.A. smog and traffic. Even so, none of the noise could reach yours truly and his meal when it came time for their union: withstanding the afternoon heat together, the little bean and cheese burrito and I were simply meant to be with each other, and ah, were we ever.

Later in the afternoon, I found myself more than just pleased with my decision, but absolutely grateful to my better self for taking care of my stomach so well! Regardless of whether I’d actually gotten anything done for the day over the screens, I knew one thing: I satisfied my soul with a precious little burrito, which was more than enough.

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At Last

And it’s one of those nights where the journey is long and your stomach is just begging and pleading for some action, when from out of nowhere your bus driver announces it’s time for a meal break.

You step off the bus and see the gas station, and it’s the greatest landmark you’ve ever laid eyes on; a gift from generations of hungry souls before yours.

You walk in, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and find immediate comfort in the warmth of the brew as it fills the small cup palmed by your hand. After topping if off with some creamer, you take a sip, cherish it, and look around for a treat to complete your late night snack family. The options are endless, as cookies, croissants, and sandwiches make up just a few of the possibilities for delight.

Your appetite longs to meet all of them, but tonight, there can only be one. Finally, you go with a coffee cake and a pair of bananas for good measure and nutrition.

Walking up to the register, you realize that the woman behind the counter is an angel, who happily greets you as you slide your debit card to officially make the meal yours. You thank her, and even wish her a good night as you head outside to perform your ritual.

Outside, you eat mechanically, as bit by bit coffee and cake caress your hunger into submission. A moment later, the bananas finish the job, at last quelling the chance of hearing any more from your belly for the evening.

You can only feel love in this moment: love for your bus driver, love for the gas station, and love for your country.

Somewhere, a part of you wants to join the air force just so you can show how much love you feel. But before you can finish that thought, your bus driver announces that it’s time to get back on the road. You immediately follow his instructions, nearly marching to the bus in a show of honor, knowing it is the only thing you can do to acknowledge the incredible value of his existence to your life at this juncture.

Aboard the bus, you take your seat, lean your head back, and fall into place for the last stretch of your journey. You’ve made it, and now nothing can stop you from reaching your promise-land. From the bus driver to the last bite of your banana, it is all on your side.

 

A Challenge

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To my friends,

Finding a great place to grab a bite can be just like finding a true romance:

Instead of eating out at chic restaurants on main boulevards, support your local businesses; find the ‘hole-in-the-walls’, the struggling, the poorly rated or even totally unrated restaurants, and love them. You’ll be amazed.

Pioneer Chicken is Still Kicking

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Pioneer chicken is a childhood favorite of mine going all the way back to when my brother and I were barely tall enough to peer over at the fries being prepared across the counter! The franchise was a frequent must-have up until our early teens, but it was forced to close both of its locations in our neighborhood not long after we finished the eighth grade to be replaced by more popular fast food chains like Little Caesar’s and Del Taco.

Since then, I missed its greasy combinations every time I passed by the restaurant’s old grounds, but the other day when a friend and I were driving through Boyle Heights I just so happened to spot its old sign: the one and only Pioneer chef! As soon as I got home later that afternoon, I shared the news with mom, and it was then quickly settled: we were going the next day.

The following morning, mom and I rolled on through to the place and got our chicken legs, thighs, some mashed potatoes, and of course, the hot and spicy Pioneer rice! And it was great to sit at the old spot’s booth again, knowing that even after all this time, we’re all still here: alive, kicking and enjoying the little roots of our city together.

J.T.

El Gran Burrito (The Godly Burrito)

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El Gran Burrito is arguably East Hollywood’s greatest Mexican restaurant, and at over twenty years at Vermont and Santa Monica, one of the neighborhood’s longest lasting franchises, ever. The reason? Your favorite bean and cheese burritos go for $5, while scrumptious tacos sell for $1.25; all made fast, easy, and flawlessly.

From there, El Gran offers all the popular Mexican classics from enchiladas for the sauce buffs to nachos for cheese lovers.

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